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Comment: a snub for tourism from the NSW Opposition

As it stands now: the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre

By RICHARD MUNRO, Chief Executive Officer, Accommodation Association of Australia

The NSW Opposition and its leader, John Robertson, are thumbing their noses at tourism.

Accommodation businesses, which are an integral part of tourism, are in universal agreement about this following the criticism that Mr Robertson has made about NSW Government spending on temporary convention facilities for Sydney at Glebe Island to enable a new world class convention, exhibition and entertainment centre to be built in the NSW capital.

Sydney’s new convention centre is a visionary project which will have far-reaching benefits for the city of Sydney, the state of NSW and the entire country. Potentially, it will attract millions of delegates to conferences each year and given that these business tourists will inevitably have high levels of disposable income, numerous other Australian businesses will benefit from their presence in our country. This illustrates that thousands of jobs will be created from the establishment of the new convention centre.

However, the NSW Opposition has seemingly demonstrated that it places a low priority on these economic benefits and jobs. As they point out, funding for schools and hospitals is important, but it is just as vital that major infrastructure projects which provide significant widespread benefits to the economy and business receive strong support from government.

In the 2010/11 financial year, Business Events Sydney secured 67 events which were collectively worth $186.5 million to the NSW economy. With a larger, state-of-the-art new convention centre, the economic benefits will significantly increase in the years ahead.

For the accommodation industry, visitors who travel for business purposes are the backbone for businesses. Large numbers of these visitors stay in hotels, motels and other accommodation businesses when they attend a meeting, conference or similar. The more meetings, conferences and other business events that Sydney is able to host, the more our industry – as well as other sectors of tourism, including retail, transport, restaurants, food-and-drink suppliers, laundries and attractions among many others – derives benefit. It’s a source of frustration that one of the major political parties has seemingly dismissed these benefits.

The Accommodation Association has written to the NSW Opposition Leader expressing this frustration and to assist with providing him with a greater appreciation of the accommodation industry, we have invited him to tour a major hotel in Sydney where he can meet with staff whose very employment relies on Sydney being a leading destination for business events.

At a time when many Asian cities are investing billions into their convention and accommodation infrastructure, it’s important that key decision-makers in Sydney, as well as our other major cities, send positive messages to the international market that Australia is an outstanding destination for business events because of our friendly people, superb attractions, fine accommodation and modern convention centres. There is no place for negative sentiment and public policy that could cause international meetings and convention organisers to shy away from bringing their events to Australia. The sooner the negativity disappears, the better off our economy, including the accommodation industry, will be.

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